Welcome to The Morning Read.
I'm a big on-the-record fan of the work of Darren Aronofsky so far, and in particular, I think "The Fountain" is a tremendous film that benefits enormously from the work that Aronofsky's real-life partner Rachel Weisz does in it. They are an intriguing film couple, and I'm always going to be interested in what they might collaborate on, but the announcement that they are teaming up for "Jackie," a film about the four days following the assassination of JFK, has me a bit worried. I find the entire Kennedy legend to be wildly overdiscussed at this point, and the notion of an entire film about Jackie Kennedy is particularly problematic. In order to explain my point, I'm afraid I might say something that will offend people who canonize her, and I know there are many of you. Please... skip the rest of this paragraph, continue with the Morning Read below, and let's stay friends. Anyone still reading, I assume you're adult enough to handle a personal opinion of a public figure who is long dead at this point. Having grown up in a post-Kennedy era, I was not under the media sway of the First Family the way people who lived through JFK's Presidency must have been, and my impression of her based on every interview I've ever seen and all the books I've read is that the media image that exists for her is a carefully-constructed fraud. I don't want to be unkind, because I think she was something of a genius at managing social events or making people feel invited into the private world of influence she inhabited, but in terms of personal charisma and conversational ability, she strikes me as an empty suit, vulnerable to the point of being almost retarded. It seems appropriate that the Kennedys were treated as American royalty, because she seems the perfect embodiment of that inbred physically shaky quality that you only get from bloodlines that have been overly thinned. And even if you disagree with me, I think it would be hard to argue that the robust, keenly intelligent sexual charisma that marks the work of Rachel Weisz is at total odds with any image of Jackie Kennedy. She's a decent match, physically, but Weisz has so much more going on under the skin than Jackie Kennedy did. It's one thing to cast against type, but the notion of Weisz subverting her own charisma to this particular character rubs me wrong in every way. I'm always happy to see Aronofsky work, and I look forward to "Black Swan" later this year, but this is the first film he's announced in a while that I find it impossible to get excited about.
And speaking of deconstructing the public image of a feminine icon of an earlier era, here's a fascinating takedown of Vanity Fair's recent Grace Kelly cover story. I adore Kelly on film, but this is a well-written piece that challenges the notion of her iconography.
To the best of my knowledge, I've never met Brad Bourland, but he sounds like a film obsessive after my own heart. I'm surprised he's not part of the Austin cabal of friends I've built over the last decade of visiting there for film-related events. His project to list the 10,000 greatest films of all time is near-madness, and I love it. I am curious to spend a few hours with the list to see how many of the film I have yet to see. As with all lists, I'm sure I'll disagree with much of his ranking, but that's the fun of it, wouldn't you say?
The folks over at The Playlist alerted us to a story that claims "The Twilight Saga: Eclipse" is preparing to do a round of reshoots in Vancouver that will not involve director David Slade and that, surprisingly, they're reaching out to Catherine Hardwick or Chris Weitz to handle those reshoots. I'm not sure this is true, and we'll update you on what's actually happening with the film later today or tomorrow. My real question is why bother? If the "Twilight" fans were satisfied with "New Moon," then it seems silly to reshoot anything. They obviously will happily consume anything "Twilight" related with no regard to whether it's "good" or "well-made" or "interesting," so why not just wrap it up, put it out, and move on?
When I first saw people mentioning this story, some part of my brain processed it as "Oh, Francis Ford Coppola made a silent film about Lincoln. Okay." That, of course, is not true. Instead, the older brother of film legend John Ford was the director of a recently-rediscovered two-reel silent film that sounds sort of amazing, and the story behind the discovery is pretty great as well.
One of the most debated titles at this year's Sundance Film Festival was "The Killer Inside Me," Michael Winterbottom's adaptation of the Jim Thompson novel that has been chased by filmmakers for decades. At one point, Stanley Kubrick was determined to make the film, but he took that energy and instead created an original screenplay with Thompson called "Lunatic At Large." That film never got made, but it looks like it's finally happening, and Scarlett Johansson is going to star. The notion of a Kubrick/Thompson film about "an ex-carnival worker with serious anger-management issues and a nervous, attractive barfly he picks up" is catnip for me, and even though Thompson wasn't a screenwriter by trade, I'm willing to bet their collaboration was an interesting one. Kubrick once gave some amazing advice to Michael Herr about screenwriting when asking him to work on "Full Metal Jacket," and I would say any screenwriter would do well to heed his words:
“Just pretend that you’re going to a movie. Walk up to the box office. Buy a ticket. Take the ticket and go inside. There’ll be a kid there who’ll rip it in half. Take the stub and walk through the lobby. Go into the theater. Walk down the aisle to about six rows in front of the screen. Take a seat in the middle of the row. Sit down. Wait. After a while, the lights will go down and the curtain will go up and the movie will start. Just write down what you see.”
Amen. If more writers did that instead of chasing demographics and trends and some sort of bullshit textbook structure ideas, the cinema would be far richer.
Hey, is the Catholic Church finished yet? Because they really, really, really need to shut up. Now.
I don't have an iPad, but consider me deeply impressed at the potential that this suggests:
Obviously, books aren't going anywhere, but as a way of augmenting an experience, that looks pretty exceptional, and more fun in that brief glimpse than the entire running time of Tim Burton's recent $200-million headache.
And while we're playing some video show-and-tell, have you seen the new "Predators" featurette? If you don't mind some German subtitles, it's pretty groovy, and I'm getting more and more excited about what Nimrod Antal, Robert Rodriguez, and a great cast and crew have whipped up for us this year. Could this be one of the rare 20-years-later sequels that actually works?
Sure looks like it.
I'm out to ActionFest tomorrow morning, but I'll have plenty more content for you before I leave, including the second episode of the Motion/Captured Podcast, with this week's guest James Rocchi.
The Morning Read appears here every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Except when it doesn't.
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